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Businesses urged to 'utilise support employment agencies'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Statistics New Zealand has released its disability figures for the labour market showing disabled people are three times less likely to be in work, and more than twice as likely to be unemployed or underutilised (work part time and would like more work hours).

Statistics New Zealand classifies disabled people as being anyone who has ‘at least a lot of difficulty in one or more of six specified areas’ - seeing (even with glasses), hearing (even with hearing aids), walking or climbing stairs, remembering or concentrating, self-care and communicating. According to the New Zealand Disability Survey 2013 (which has a broader definition of disabled people as those with an impairment that has a long-term, limiting effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities) 1.1 million New Zealanders live with some sort of disability in their lives.

FIRST Union’s Dennis Maga says the figures out today are concerning especially due to the wide range of disabilities, the number of people impacted, and the fact that many disabled people are very capable of working a variety of jobs.

"We suspect it’s partially due to disable persons not feeling accepted at different workplaces and partly due to businesses not being wholly accessible. But this also provides a chance for more diversity in New Zealand workplaces."

Mr Maga says some businesses are going to extra lengths to ensure disabled workers are able to work at their facilities but there are some that simply don’t consider these workers in their contracts.

"We would like to see more businesses being more accepting of disability terms and conditions so it’s easier for these workers to enjoy a life like any other New Zealander. With work comes independence, something that’s so very important for a healthy mind-set."

He says disabled persons underemployment is also worrying.

"This is a large workforce who would like to be working more but many are not. Having a diverse workplace benefits both the employee and employer and we encourage companies to take a look at their workforce and where they might be able to make improvements. This requires leadership at a managerial level - look at how the business operates and what initiates are already available to you that you could implement to make your workplace more user friendly for disabled workers. There are organisations out there ready to place people with a disability into work (such as Workbridge), all they need to do is reach out."

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